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  • Title: Hall's Chronicle (Selection)
  • Editor: James D. Mardock

  • Copyright James D. Mardock. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Edward Hall
    Editor: James D. Mardock
    Not Peer Reviewed

    Hall's Chronicle (Selection)

    Before the battle of Agincourt

    (fol. 47-49v)

    The King of England, informed by his espials that the day of battle was nearer than he looked for, dislodged from Bonnières and rode in good array through the fair plain beside the town of Blangy, where, to the intent that his army should not be included in a strait or driven to a corner, he chose a place meet and convenient for two armies to deraign battle between the towns of Blangy and Agincourt, where he pight his field.

    The Constable of France, the Marshall, the Admiral, the Lord Rambures Master of the Crossbows, and divers lords and knights pitched their banners near to the banner royal of the Constable in the county of Saint Paul within the territory of Agincourt, by the which way the Englishmen must needs pass toward Calais. The Frenchmen made great fires about their banners, and they were in number had forty thousand horsemen, as their own historians and writers affirm, beside footmen, pages, and wagoners, and all that night made great cheer and were very merry. The Englishmen that night sounded their trumpets and divers instruments musical with great melody, and yet they were both hungry, weary, sore travailed, and much vexed with cold diseases; howbeit they made peace with God in confessing their sins, requiring him of help and receiving the holy sacrament, every man encouraging and determining clearly rather to die than either to yield or fly.

    Now approached the fortunate fair day to the Englishmen and the infest and unlucky day to the French nobility, which was the five-and-twenty day of October in the year of our Lord Jesu Christ a thousand four hundred and fifteen, being then Friday and the day of Crispin and Crispinian. On the which day in the morning, the Frenchmen made three battles. . . . When these battles were thus ordered, it was a glorious sight to behold them, and surely they were esteemed to be in number six times as many or more than was the whole company of the Englishmen, with wagoners, pages, and all. Thus the Frenchmen were, every man under his banner, only waiting for the bloody blast of the terrible trumpet, and in this order they continued resting themselves and reconciling every one to other for all old rancors and hatreds which had been between them, till the hour between nine and ten of the day. During which season, the Constable of France said openly to the captains in effect as foloweth:"Friends and companions in arms, I cannot but both rejoice and lament the chances and fortunes of these two armies which I openly see and behold with mine eyes here present. I rejoice for the victory which I see at hand for our part, and I lament and sorrow for the misery and calamity which I perceive to approach to the other side. For we cannot but be victors and triumphant conquerors, for who saw ever so flourishing an army within any Christian region, or such a multitude of valiant persons in one company? Is not here the flower of the French nation on barded horses with sharp spears and deadly weapons? Are not here the bold Bretons with fiery handguns and sharp swords? See you not present the practiced Picards with strong and weighty crossbows? Beside these, we have the fierce Brabanters and strong Almaines with long pikes and cutting slaughmesses.

    35"And on the other side is a small handful of poor Englishmen which are entered into this region in hope of some gain or desire of profit, which by reason that their victual is consumed and spent, are by daily famine sore weakened, consumed, and almost without spirits; for their force is clearly abated and their strength utterly decayed, so that ere the battles shall join they shall be for very feebleness vanquished and overcome, and instead of men ye shall fight with shadows. For you must understand that, keep an Englishman one month from his warm bed, fat beef, and stale drink, and let him that season taste cold and suffer hunger, you then shall see his courage abated, his body wax lean and bare, and ever desirous to return into his own country. Experience now declareth this to be true, for if famine had not pinched them or cold weather had not nipped them, surely they would have made their progress farther into France and not by so many perilous passages retired toward Calais. Such courage is in Englishmen when fair weather and victual follow them, and such weakness they have when famine and cold vex and trouble them. Therefore now it is no mastery to vanquish and overthrow them, being both weary and weak, for by reason of feebleness and faintness their weapons shall fall out of their hands when they proffer to strike, so that ye may no easilier kill a poor sheep than destroy them, being already sick and hunger-starven.

    "But imagine that they were lusty, strong and courageous, and then ponder wisely the cause of their coming hither and the meaning of their enterprise: first, their king, a young stripling more meet for a tennis play than a warlike camp, claimeth the crown, scepter, and sovereignty of the very substance of the French nation by battle; then he and his intend to occupy this country, inhabit this land, destroy our wives and children, extinguish our blood, and put our names in the black book of oblivion. Wherefore remember well: in what quarrel can you better fight than for the tuition of your natural country, the honor of your prince, the surety of your children, and the safeguard of your land and lives? If these causes do not encourage you to fight, behold before your eyes the tents of your enemies, with treasure, plate, and jewels well stuffed and richly furnished, which prey is surely yours if every man strike but one stroke, beside the great ransoms which shall be paid for rich captains and wealthy prisoners, which as surely shall be yours as you now had them in your possession.

    "Yet this thing I charge you withal: that in no wise the king himself be killed, but by force or otherwise to be apprehended and taken, to the intent that with glory and triumph we may convey him openly through the noble city of Paris to our king and dauphin as a testimony of our victory and witness of our noble act. And of this thing you be sure: that fly they cannot, and to yield to our fight of necessity they shall be compelled. Therefore, good fellows, take courage to you! The victory is yours, the gain is yours, and the honor is yours, without great labor or much loss."

    King Henry also, like a leader and not like one led, like a sovereign and not like a soldier, ordered his men for his most advantage like an expert captain and a courageous warrior. . . . When he had ordered thus his battles, he left a small company to keep his camp and baggage, and then calling his captains and soldiers about him, he made to them an hearty oration in effect as foloweth, saying: "Well-beloved friends and countrymen, I exhort you heartily to think and conceive in yourselves that this day shall be to us all a day of joy, a day of good luck and a day of victory. For truly if you well note and wisely consider all things, almighty God, under whose protection we be come hither, hath appointed a place so meet and apt for our purpose as we ourselves could neither have devised nor wished, which as it is apt and convenient for our small number and little army, so is it unprofitable and unmeet for a great multitude to fight or give battle in, and in especial for such men in whom is neither constant faith nor security of promise, which persons be of God neither favored nor regarded, nor he is not accustomed to aid and succor such people which by force and strength contrary to right and reason detain and keep from other their just patrimony and lawful inheritance, with which blot and spot the French nation is apparently defiled and distained; so that God of his justice will scourge and afflict them for their manifest injuries and open wrongs to us and our realm daily committed and done.

    "Therefore putting your only trust in him, let not their multitude fear your hearts, nor their great number abate your courages; for surely old warlike fathers have both said and written that the more people that an army is, the less knowledge the multitude hath of material feats or politic practices, which rude rustical and ignorant persons shall be in the field unto hardy captains and lusty men of war a great let and sore impediment. And though they all were of like policy, like audacity, and of one uniform experience in martial affairs, yet we ought neither to fear them nor once to shrink for them, considering that we come in the right, which ever of God is favored, set forth, and advanced: in which good and just quarrel all good persons shall rather set both their feet forward than once to turn their one heel backward.

    40"For if you adventure your lives in so just a battle and so good a cause, which way soever Fortune turn her wheel, you shall be sure of fame, glory, and renown. If you be victors and overcome your enemies, your strength and virtue shall be spread and dispersed through the whole world. If you, overpressed with so great a multitude, shall happen to be slain or taken, yet neither reproach can be to you ascribed either yet infamy of you reported, considering that Hercules alone was not equivalent unto two men, nor a small handful is not equal to a great number, for victory is the gift of God and consisteth not in the puissance of men. Wherefore manfully set on your enemies at their first encounter; strike with a hardy courage on the false-hearted Frenchmen, whom your noble ancestors have so often overcome and vanquished. For surely they be not so strong to give the onset upon you, but they be much weaker to abide your strength in a long fight and tired battle.

    "As for me, I assure you all that England for my person shall never pay ransom, nor never Frenchman shall triumph over me as his captain, for this day by famous death or glorious victory I will win honor and obtain fame. Therefore now joyously prepare yourselves to the battle and courageously fight with your enemies, for at this very time all the realm of England prayeth for our good luck and prosperous success."

    While the king was thus speaking, each army so maligned and grudged at the other, being in open fight and evident apparence, that every man cried "Forth, forth! Forward, forward!" The dukes of Clarence, Gloucester, and York were of the same opinion, thinking it most convenient to march toward their enemies with all speed and celerity, least in prolonging of time and arguing of opinions, the French army might more and more increase and hourly multiply. Howbeit the king tarried awhile lest any jeopardy were not foreseen or any hazard not prevented.

    The Frenchmen, in the mean season, little or nothing regarding the small number of the English nation, were of such haut courage and proud stomachs that they took no thought for the battle, as who say they were victors and overcomers before any stroke was stricken, and laughed at the Englishmen, and for very pride thought themselves lifted into heaven, jesting and boasting that they had the Englishmen enclosed in a strait, and had overcome and taken them without any resistance. The captains determined how to divide the spoil; the soldiers played the Englishmen at dice; the noblemen devised a chariot, how they might triumphantly convey King Henry, being captive, to the city of Paris, crying to their soldiers, "Haste yourselves to obtain spoil, glory, and honor, to the intent that we may study how to give you thanks for the great gifts and rewards which we hope to receive of your great liberality!" The foolish folly of this vain solace brake out so far that messengers were sent to the cities and towns adjoining willing them to make open plays and triumphs (as though that the victory were to them certain and no resistance could appear), and also to give God thanks for their prosperous act and notable deed, not remembering that the whirlwind shortly with a puff blew away all their foolish joy and fantastical bragging.